I fear that I’ve been a little lax in communicating my stance on giving to folks. I want so badly to say, “God doesn’t care how much you give as long as it’s from the heart.” It’s a caveat to those who are experiencing a tinge of guilt for their wholesale pursuit of the retail god. They decide that they want to start “giving” but discover that at their present level of living, they simply cannot “tithe.”
In the past month, our church has had an incredible series on the Journey to Financial Freedom. We’ve heard from different pastors in our area as guest speakers, and we still have a few more weeks in our financial small groups. I don’t think anyone who has participated regularly has left unchanged and unresolved.
However, I don’t want to fudge on this important issue. It’s not a matter of squeezing a little giving into our existing lifestyles. If our current level of living is too great for a biblically prescribed level of giving, then there t’ain’t no squeezing that’s gonna make lemonade out of a watermelon. If your living level prohibits your giving level, then the former must decrease while the latter must increase.
I’ve got just a thin steak of mercy running in me. Most who know me well say I’ve got more than that; however, I generally appreciate receiving plain talk, and because of that, I generally give it as well. So here it is, if you’ve heard or read from me any semblance of permission to gradually grow into giving, please slap me.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.17-20, ESV)
You see, we’ve taught consistently this past month that the tithe concept was not just an Old Testament one that New Testament Christians can replace with some type of warm fuzzy giving. I still believe that the tithe is the starting point of obedience. Jesus states clearly that His teaching is not replacement but enhancement. In fact, we know that the Pharisees tithed – even to the point of tithing on herbs and spices. According to Jesus’ point, our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees. New Testament giving, then, becomes a matter of standard obedience and joyful excess.
So… for all those who would “relax” the commandments and meekly counsel you to grow into giving, I say, “Bull.” Increase your giving level while decreasing your living level. If you must sell out to start over, then by all means, do so joyfully. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
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